College students and their parents have seen the cost of their educations go up every year for more than a decade. The tuition increases approved by the regents for Georgia’s 31 public schools were held at the same rate as the increases adopted a year ago, which were the lowest since 2002.
For 27 schools in the University System of Georgia, students will pay 2.5 percent more. That translates to an extra $32 to $83 per semester at campuses ranging from Georgia Southern University to Dalton State University to Armstrong Atlantic State University, where the regents held their Tuesday meeting in Savannah.
The remaining four schools, Georgia’s larger research universities, will raise their rates even more. Georgia Tech students will take the hardest hit, with in-state undergraduates paying an extra $270 – or 7 percent – each semester. University of Georgia undergrads will pay $191 more per semester, a 5 percent increase. Georgia State University in Atlanta and Georgia Regents University in Augusta will both raise undergraduate tuition 3.5 percent, about $131 per semester.
The regents approved the tuition increases despite getting an additional $54.6 million in funding from the Legislature for the next school year. Chancellor Hank Huckaby said the University System is still struggling to keep up with soaring enrollment, higher health care premiums for employees and other costs after absorbing $1.4 billion in budget cuts in the past five years.
“We worked very hard to keep it at affordable levels,” Huckabee said. “But we’re nowhere close to where we were being funded five years ago.”
University system officials say the average tuition cost in Georgia remains below those in neighboring Southern states such as Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina.
Still, members of the Board of Regents said they’re aware that Georgia families are being asked to pay for college at a time when many are still hurting from the recession. Dink NeSmith, the board’s chairman, said the regents soon want to see a year without a rise in tuition – perhaps for the school year starting in fall 2014.
“It’ll probably take us another year, but we’d like to have no increase in tuition,” said NeSmith, though he said it’s too early to say how that would be accomplished. “We think it’s possible.”
In addition to raising tuition, the regents approved mandatory fee increases at 16 schools ranging from an additional $6 health fee for Georgia Tech students to $53 in new recreation and athletic fees for Dalton State College students.
Chanel Riggins, a freshman nursing student at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, said even small cost increases can hurt. Next fall, her tuition will go up $56 per semester to $2,312, and she’ll be charged an extra $27 in mandatory health and student center fees.
“It means a lot,” said Riggins, who’s using student loans and money her father has borrowed to pay for school. “My father’s in the military, and he’s got five kids. This just puts him further into debt, and he’s already complaining about the bills.”